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5E Mythological Figures: Hel

No pantheon is complete without someone to rule over the afterlife and today’s entry in Mythological Figures is one of the most eponymously named gods to do so: Hel!

Hel DnD 5E BANNER.jpg


One of Loki’s three children with Angrboða (her siblings are the wolf Fenrir and Jörmungandr the world serpent), the gods knew from the start that Hel would be trouble. Odin himself threw her into Niflheim to “administer board and lodging to those sent to her, and that is those who die of sickness or old age.” So it is that she rules over the Norse afterlife other than Valhalla, in the Halls of Hel beneath one of the world tree Yggdrasil’s three roots. This realm is filled with great mansions that have high walls and enormous gates, and when Ragnarök comes Loki will arrive with the people kept here alongside him. Hel has a dish called Hunger, a knife called Famine, the servants Ganglati and Ganglöt, an entrance threshold called the "stumbling-block," the "sick-bed," and the curtains "gleaming-bale". Despite her divinity she is not a woman of great beauty however, possessing fierce features, often with a dejected demeanor, and a keen mind. When the god Baldr is brought to her halls she refuses to release him to his brother Hermóðr but offers to let him go if all things in the world will weep for him—yet the jötunn Þökk refuses to so she keeps him.

Design Notes: Odin technically doesn’t have class levels, but Thor and Loki got that treatment so after reviewing Hel’s exploits it made sense to go with a character build for her instead of a monster build. Although it might seem odd for her to have the mind domain it suits the flavor for a “master of the realm” type and in terms of power the cleric is pretty impressive—her average damage is 150 a turn via upcasted spirit guardians for 3 rounds, upcasted spiritual weapon for 3 rounds, and 2 harm spells. Which brings us to a look at the numbers! The DMG came in at 18.833 and the Blog of Holding at 19.33, averaging out to an impressive CR 19 (bigger and badder than the other Norse gods built with class levels).


Hel
Medium humanoid (human), neutral cleric (mind) 20
Armor Class 23 (+2 glamered half plate, +2 shield)
Hit Points 150 (20d8+60)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
14 (+2)​
14 (+2)​
16 (+3)​
14 (+2)​
20 (+5)​
9 (–1)​
Saving Throws Wis +11, Cha +5
Skills History +8, Insight +11, Persuasion +5, Religion +8
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Insight 26, passive Perception 20
Languages Old Norse
Challenge 19 (22,000 XP)

Background: Courtier. Hel is able to use her position as a master of the afterlife to access the bureaucratic functionings of organizations that she encounters. She is able to identify who has authority and influence, what the group is recently concerned with, and how to acquire something from them.

Alter Reality (1/Short Rest). Hel can choose for an ally she sees within 30 feet to change the roll for a saving throw it has failed to a roll of 20, possibly turning a failure into a success.

Aura of Fortitude. While she is conscious, Hel and friendly creatures within 10 feet of her gain a +2 bonus on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws.

Blessing: Darksight. Hel has darkvision 60 feet.

Blessing: Hel’s Master (1/Long Rest). Hel can summon servants from her realm as if she had blown a silver horn of Valhalla, except instead of conjuring berserkers she summons 2d10+2 ghouls.

Channel Divinity (3/Short Rest). Hel can channel divine energy directly from her realm, using that energy to fuel one of the following magical effects.
Mental Interference. When a creature within 30 feet of Hel makes a Wisdom saving throw, she can use her reaction to fray its mind and give it disadvantage on the save. When she is not forcing the creature to make its Wisdom saving throw, Hel can also deal 10 psychic damage before the creature rolls its saving throw.​
Turn Undead. As an action, Hel presents her holy symbol and speaks a prayer censuring the undead. Each undead within 30 feet that can see or hear her must make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes any damage. An undead that fails its saving throw is instantly destroyed if its challenge rating is 4 or below. A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from Hel as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of her. It also can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.​

Divine Insight (2/Short Rest). Hel can reroll an ability check, gaining a +10 bonus.

Divine Intervention (1/Week). Using an action, Hel draws directly from the power underlying her realm. The GM chooses the nature of the intervention; the effect of any cleric spell or cleric domain spell is appropriate.

Feat: Perceptive. Hel is able to read lips.

Feat: War Magic. Hel has advantage when she is concentrating on a spell and has to make a Constitution saving throw from taking damage, she can wield weapons or a shield in both hands and still make somatic components for spellcasting, and can use her reaction to cast a spell (maximum casting time: 1 action) at a creature that provokes an opportunity attack from her.

Magical Anguish. Whenever Hel deals radiant damage with a cleric spell or cantrip, she can choose to change it to psychic damage instead.

Powerful Spellcaster. Hel deals an extra 5 damage with cleric cantrips.

Spellcasting. Hel is a 20th-level spellcaster that uses Wisdom as her spellcasting ability (spell save DC 19; +11 to hit with spell attacks). She has the following spells prepared from the cleric’s spell list:
Cantrips: guidance, resistance, sacred flame, spare the dying, thaumaturgy
1st-level (4 slots): command, cure wounds, guiding bolt, healing word, inflict wounds
2nd-level (3 slots): aid, blindness/deafness, detect thoughts, hold person, spiritual weapon, warding bond
3rd-level (3 slots): animate dead, bestow curse, fear, revivify, spirit guardians
4th-level (3 slots): confusion, divination, freedom of movement, phantasmal killer
5th-level (3 slots): commune, dominate person, raise dead, scrying, telekinesis
6th-level (2 slots): harm, planar ally
7th-level (2 slots): divine word, plane shift, resurrection
8th-level (1 slot): earthquake
9th-level (1 slot): true resurrection


ACTIONS
Famine. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) magical slashing damage and the target makes a DC 19 Constitution saving throw or gains one level of exhaustion for 1 minute. A target that fails its saving throw by 5 or more gains two levels of exhaustion instead. A target cannot gain more than two levels of exhaustion from this weapon.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage.
 
Last edited:
Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Stalker0

Legend
My only note is that the Defensive CR is awfully low, I mean one Power Word: Stun would likely just end the whole fight. I think this is part of the issue with relying on AC too much for the defensive capability, at some point those low hps are going to cost you.

Her saves aren't that great, she doesn't have magic resistance, and none of her spells really help in the defense department (no temp hp, no big heals, no bless for save boosting). She is a really fragile glass cannon.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
My only note is that the Defensive CR is awfully low, I mean one Power Word: Stun would likely just end the whole fight. I think this is part of the issue with relying on AC too much for the defensive capability, at some point those low hps are going to cost you.

Her saves aren't that great, she doesn't have magic resistance, and none of her spells really help in the defense department (no temp hp, no big heals, no bless for save boosting). She is a really fragile glass cannon.
That's the nature of PC builds! Unfortunately clerics don't get access to counterspell and while you could swap Observant out for Tough to up her hit points a bit, that'd drop her DCs and would only offer protection from power word stun until she's hit once or twice. Her durability (and CR) would definitely go up with Magic Resistance (also wouldn't fix the pws problem) but I'm wont to use too many blessings that are more than flavor.

Any of her spells can be swapped around—I wasn't figuring her for a healy-type cleric so she's just got healing word there for emergencies.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Any of her spells can be swapped around—I wasn't figuring her for a healy-type cleric so she's just got healing word there for emergencies.

You could give her Aid and Bless. Aid can top of those HPs a bit, not a huge amount but its something. Bless is actually a big boost to saves.

The other idea would be to give her warding bond and have her keep some kind of ghoulish servant with her, so that at least gives her a little protection in a creepy way. (I don't know enough about Hel's flavor to know if that would be in character).
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
You could give her Aid and Bless. Aid can top of those HPs a bit, not a huge amount but its something. Bless is actually a big boost to saves.

The other idea would be to give her warding bond and have her keep some kind of ghoulish servant with her, so that at least gives her a little protection in a creepy way. (I don't know enough about Hel's flavor to know if that would be in character).
Aye 5 hit points doesn't go very far but at least it means a power word stun out of the gate won't wreck her day. Bless is a concentration spell and I think anybody with access to 9th level spells probably wants to use their concentration for something higher level. Warding bond sounds good to me too so we'll toss that on there as well.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Aye 5 hit points doesn't go very far but at least it means a power word stun out of the gate won't wreck her day. Bless is a concentration spell and I think anybody with access to 9th level spells probably wants to use their concentration for something higher level.

Well she can always cast Aid in a higher level slot (20 hp for a 5th level spell puts a little gas in the tank). And on bless....you would "think" that, but I have been surprised how often my high level group in my last campaign still used it....there is so little in 5e that gives you direct boosts to attack and saves that it holds up no matter the level. Something like holy aura is probably better for a direct fight, but bless is a good backup...especially if you want to send in minions to fight first.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
Well she can always cast Aid in a higher level slot (20 hp for a 5th level spell puts a little gas in the tank). And on bless....you would "think" that, but I have been surprised how often my high level group in my last campaign still used it....there is so little in 5e that gives you direct boosts to attack and saves that it holds up no matter the level.
That's true on aid! In the games I've been in after a cleric gets their hands on spirit guardians I almost never see them use their concentration for anything else though.
 

Stalker0

Legend
That's true on aid! In the games I've been in after a cleric gets their hands on spirit guardians I almost never see them use their concentration for anything else though.

I think that's true for a more "in your face" cleric. Hel seems to be more in the "uses minions and sit in the back and cast mental whammies". So I think bless would be more appropriate for that....but having both is again never bad. I think just mixing in a few more defensive/buff spells into her default spell mix will round her out a bit more.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
I think that's true for a more "in your face" cleric. Hel seems to be more in the "uses minions and sit in the back and cast mental whammies". So I think bless would be more appropriate for that....but having both is again never bad. I think just mixing in a few more defensive/buff spells into her default spell mix will round her out a bit more.
I reckon it'd be more defensive to hit an enemy mage (or whoever is the biggest concern) with a dominate person while forcing disadvantage on the saving throw, and to hold onto concentration on that.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I reckon it'd be more defensive to hit an enemy mage (or whoever is the biggest concern) with a dominate person while forcing disadvantage on the saving throw, and to hold onto concentration on that.

In terms of action economy, absolutely. Sorry I may be confusing my position, I was not suggesting that Hel cast bless as the first round in combat kind of thing....that would be ludicrous at such high CRs.

To me bless would be more of a "Minions! Take my blessing, go and die for me!" Aka something you do when you don't want to be involved in a fight.

Or you start the fight with bless (again assuming some foreknowledge)....but you drop it in favor of a better spell (like dominate person) at your first opportunity. Now that may feel like a waste...but 5e combats are FAST.....the vast majority are 3 rounds (based on WOTC stats and my own personal experience at high levels). So even if that bless gives you a bonus on just a couple of saving throws before you get to act in initiative.....that could be a lifesaver, and well worth a simple 1st level slot.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
In terms of action economy, absolutely. Sorry I may be confusing my position, I was not suggesting that Hel cast bless as the first round in combat kind of thing....that would be ludicrous at such high CRs.

To me bless would be more of a "Minions! Take my blessing, go and die for me!" Aka something you do when you don't want to be involved in a fight.

Or you start the fight with bless (again assuming some foreknowledge)....but you drop it in favor of a better spell (like dominate person) at your first opportunity. Now that may feel like a waste...but 5e combats are FAST.....the vast majority are 3 rounds (based on WOTC stats and my own personal experience at high levels). So even if that bless gives you a bonus on just a couple of saving throws before you get to act in initiative.....that could be a lifesaver, and well worth a simple 1st level slot.
Sure but it's a 1 minute spell. Even with foreknowledge unless she's stepping out of a backroom to get the fight started it's definitely going to trigger a fight. Cleric's not a "known" spell class so swap it if you like though. I'm not sold and would take my chances with the expectation she's going to bust out a concentration spell on round one, probably that upcasted spirit guardians.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I'm not sold and would take my chances with the expectation she's going to bust out a concentration spell on round one, probably that upcasted spirit guardians.

Fair enough, though I like your dominate person idea better. Honestly if you she doesn't generate some major pressure on the party on round 1 (like another character switching sides and joining her), she is going to be pulp.

Round 1: Behold my power! (cast spirit guardians).
Party: Destroys her

Party: "Puny god".
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I am not sure where I read this, but it seems like hunger and famine-like suffering for the dishonored dead were big parts of her mythology. If there was some kind of famine domain cleric would be a better fit. Don't forget she has a pet too; I am not sure how to work Garm into it, but it occurs to me that, if there was a big enough hungry dog monster running around, the PC's would attack that first, buying her an extra round or two to drop some nasty magic on them.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
I am not sure where I read this, but it seems like hunger and famine-like suffering for the dishonored dead were big parts of her mythology. If there was some kind of famine domain cleric would be a better fit. Don't forget she has a pet too; I am not sure how to work Garm into it, but it occurs to me that, if there was a big enough hungry dog monster running around, the PC's would attack that first, buying her an extra round or two to drop some nasty magic on them.
We've got a veritable pack of hellish doggos!



 

paladinn

Explorer
I seem to recall Hel(a) having one side of her face as very beautiful, and the other as.. well.. a corpse. How/should that be represented in her Cha score?

Definitely want to stay on her good side :p
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
I seem to recall Hel(a) having one side of her face as very beautiful, and the other as.. well.. a corpse. How/should that be represented in her Cha score?

Definitely want to stay on her good side :p
Hrm...I'm having a little trouble finding that. Most I got about her face is the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson saying she's "half-black, half-white, and with a perpetually grim and fierce expression on her face" (which I took to mean she's got a bad Charisma, though I did need a dump stat).
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Hrm...I'm having a little trouble finding that. Most I got about her face is the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson saying she's "half-black, half-white, and with a perpetually grim and fierce expression on her face" (which I took to mean she's got a bad Charisma, though I did need a dump stat).

Hel, the ruler, is named by Snorri Sturluson as one of the three children of Loki and Angrboða. He says in Gylfaginning, chapter 34, that the gods perceived by prophecy that from Loki's offspring great misfortune would befall them, so Odin had these children brought to him:

Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great. Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings. She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.
The Gylfaginning is the first part of the Prose Edda, and was written in Old Norse. Based on her context as a death deity, I would assume her blue-black half is meant to be corpse-like. I wouldn't mind having a look at an annotated version of the Prose Edda to see if it has any notes on her appearance.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/

The Gylfaginning is the first part of the Prose Edda, and was written in Old Norse. Based on her context as a death deity, I would assume her blue-black half is meant to be corpse-like. I wouldn't mind having a look at an annotated version of the Prose Edda to see if it has any notes on her appearance.
Frozen corpse-like from frostbite and stuff. Aye that makes sense.
 



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